DHAKA: Bangladesh border guards have “pushed back” more than 160 Rohingya Muslims in recent days who were fleeing communal clashes in neighbouring Myanmar, a senior commander said on Tuesday.
At least 89 people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes in a new wave of communal unrest sweeping Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, where violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhists in June left dozens killed.
Border Guard Bangladesh commander Mohammad Khalequzzaman told AFP that refugees tried to cross the land border and enter Ukhia county, which borders Rakhine.
He said border guards have so far “pushed back more than 160 Rohingya, who crossed into Bangladesh through land borders since October 21″, when the latest wave of violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in Rakhine.
The refugees included 27 Rohingya who attempted to enter Ukhia on Tuesday, before being turned away by Bangladesh border guards, he added.
Khalequzzaman said the refugees arrived “in groups of six to 10 people in three phases. Nearly half of them were women and children.”
“We have pushed them back this afternoon after giving them food. None of them were reported injured or sick,” he said.
After earlier sectarian clashes in Rakhine in June, Bangladesh river patrol teams turned back at least 16 boats carrying Rohingya, most of them women and children.
That move drew criticism from the United Nations (UN) and rights groups, but Bangladesh said it would not accept any new refugees as it was already burdened with an estimated 300,000 Rohingya living in its southeast.
Myanmar’s 800,000 stateless Rohingya are viewed by the UN as among the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
Seen by the Myanmar government and many Burmese as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, they face tight restrictions on their movements and limited access to employment, education and public services.
The United Nations estimates that more than 28,000 people — mostly Muslims — have been displaced since October 21, in addition to about 75,000 people already crammed into squalid camps following the June unrest.